Brussels – Twenty years of free trade negotiations between the European Union (EU) and the South American trade bloc known as Mercosur have resulted in a deal which will have devastating consequences for the climate.
“This trade deal is a double whammy for the planet: it will exacerbate deforestation and encourage the production of big, dirty, cars. This might just be the EU’s worst trade agreement for the climate” said Perrine Fournier, trade and forests campaigner at Fern.
Today’s agreement between the EU and Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay opens EU markets to more beef imports from countries where ranching is the main cause of deforestation, while favouring the export of EU cars, especially highly fuel-intensive Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs).
The EU has pledged that it will halt global deforestation by 2020. In its 2015 Trade For All strategy, it also commits to using trade agreements as levers to promote sustainable development and human rights.
Since Jair Bolsonaro became Brazil’s President, his government has dismantled environmental protections, incursions by armed invaders on Indigenous Peoples’ lands have surged, and deforestation rates in the Amazon have risen.
“The European Commission says it champions values-based trade, but it has signed a deal with a government of climate deniers who launched an assault on the Amazon and on indigenous peoples. This trade agreement makes the EU complicit in Bolsonaro’s threatening policies and annihilates Juncker’s legacy on climate and human rights” said Fournier.
In the last weeks of negotiations, the European Commission has received a letter from 340+ civil society organisations calling on the EU to halt negotiations.
It will now be up to the EU Council and the European Parliament to approve the agreement’s entry into force. On June 20, EU Member States made the “promotion of European values on the global stage” a priority for the next five years.
The European elections have shown that care for the environment is one of those values. A recent YouGov poll also found that 87 per cent of EU citizens do not want to buy dairy products, steaks or snacks that are tainted by forest destruction.
“Fern calls on EU governments and Members of the European Parliament to listen to Europeans’ support for a greener agenda, oppose the deal as it stands and push for strong and binding safeguards that will ensure that forests are protected, and rights respected” concluded Fournier.
- In a briefing note on the cattle industry, Fern detailed some of the devastating impacts of cattle ranching in Mercosur countries: it is responsible for 80 per cent of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, as well as forest loss in the Paraguayan part of the Gran Chaco, the second largest forested zone in South America. In 2018, 78.8 per cent of EU beef imports came from the Mercosur (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay).